Day Trip: Things to Do in Point Reyes

point reyes

It’s a fact: You simply don’t get much more incredible than this. Keeping watch at the edge of the earth (in Marin County), the rugged, wind-swept Point Reyes National Seashore is a pristine strip of quintessential California Coast—just north of San Francisco and yet worlds away.

There are tons of activities available in Point Reyes, so it’s best to check in first at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, where the friendly crew can help you figure out your game plan. But to get you started, here are some of our personal favorite things to do in Point Reyes.

Find Hotels in the area:

Light up
Perched on a dramatic cliff, the Point Reyes Lighthouse kept watch over the windiest place on the Pacific coast—and the second foggiest place in North America—from 1870 until it was retired in 1975. Today, it enlightens the visitors brave enough to face the 300-some steps that drift dramatically down to where it sits. But trust us: The views are well worth the trek, and you’ll get some brag-worthy photos to boot.

The Lighthouse Point Visitor Center houses historic photos and other exhibits, and both visitor center and lighthouse are open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. From April through December, tours of the lantern room and evening lighting events are also available. (Be prepared at all times for high winds and chilly climes.)

Take a walk on the wild side
So much more than a “just a beach,” the Point Reyes Seashore boasts estuaries, wetlands, lagoons, and marshes galore. The diversity of habitats lends itself to a wonderful collection of wildlife—Point Reyes is home to birds, gray whales, elephant seals, tule elk, and many more species. Check out the National Park Service’s Guide to Wildlife at Point Reyes for more information.

Move it!
Whether you dare the heights on a hike along the craggy cliffs or stick to the safer but no less picturesque inland area, Point Reyes offers no shortage of hiking trails for all levels. Check out the Point Reyes guide to hiking trails to choose the one that’s right for you.

Jump on in
No, the thundering Pacific water here is definitely not “fine,” but the park’s other water havens are primed for water adventures, like kayaking or standup paddleboarding. Blue Waters Kayaking offers both rentals and tours of the many areas, from the long skinny Tomales Bay to the coastal farmland of Drake’s Estero.

Horseback riding is yet another great way to see a large part of the park. Many of the hiking and biking trails  (more than 120 miles of them, in case you were wondering) allow horses, and Fivebrooks Ranch provides guided rides all around the park.

hog islandGrab a bite
The famous Hog Island Oyster Farm has some of the best oysters in the Bay Area. And it’s situated in the middle of a stunning setting.

Cowgirl Creamery is another awesome choice for eats in Point Reyes. No, you don’t have to eat the cheese straight up (although you can, we won’t judge). The shop, located in the delightful marketplace Tomales Bay Foods, offers sandwiches and wine as well—basically your perfect lunch spot. We recommend grabbing your eats and heading somewhere scenic.

A word to the wise
Point Reyes is known for its ornery weather—it’s one of the foggiest, rainiest, and windiest places in the (foggy, windy) Bay Area, so don’t leave home without an extra layer or three.

Read more about the best places to take a photo in the Bay Area.

Point Reyes is located approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of San Francisco on Highway 1. To reach it by public transportation, take Golden Gate Transit bus 24 to the Fairfax – Broadway & Bolina stop, then transfer to the Public Transportation to the West Marin Stagecoach (bus 68), which runs to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Photo: Kyle DiederichsenKevin Hutchinson, Blue Waters Kayaking, potential past